The Best Airport Workouts for Staying Fit During Holiday Travel

Make the most of your layover this holiday season.

For most, the holidays are a welcome respite from a long year of work. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years, while light on daylight, are heavy on good food, quality time with your loved ones, and hopefully a few fitness-related presents under the tree. 

However, staying in shape while traveling over the holidays can be a struggle, especially if you’re stuck missing out on your favorite training routine or can’t stick to your diet. But for those willing to spend their airport downtime ripping through some quick workouts, the only thing left behind will be sweat and excuses. 

woman sitting on airport floor
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While the gym can’t come with you on your holiday travels, personal fitness certainly can. here are five convenient, do-them-basically-anywhere airport workouts to hit up while you’re traveling.

Best Airport Workouts

Best Upper Body Airport Workout

Training the upper body in an airport can be tricky. There aren’t a lot of implements to take advantage of, so being creative is very important. Calisthenics are essentiall, but using your luggage strategically can open up many more opportunities to make gains.

The Workout

You can emulate many dumbbell or kettlebell exercises by using a smaller carry-on bag or purse to target a variety of muscle groups. Given the weight restriction, hitting a few pre-fatiguing calisthenics moves will go a long way in making the remaining exercises more effective.

Best Lower Body Airport Workout

Training your lower body in an airport is a bit more straightforward. Many bodyweight variations of exercises you commonly perform in the weight room can be quite effective on their own, but you can also sneak in some extra intensity by using suitcases.

The Workout

Using single-leg and tempo techniques will produce a ton of valuable challenge when working your legs with heavy weights isn’t an option. As most lower body exercise simulates everyday activities, this workout should be easily accessible in the airport.

Best Airport Workout for Beginners

Beginners may have the best opportunity to mimic their normal training in an airport. It’s a fantastic place to practice calisthenics variations of the big movement patterns — with or without load, beginners can use downtime in their travels to drill down on foundational movement patterns.

The Workout

Exercises like the squat, hinge, presses, pulling variations, and core work are all possible for beginners largely using calisthenics. Adding objects like carry-on bags or suitcases can help provide a bit more challenge, but really, bodyweight versions do just as well when developing technique.

  • Squat: 3 x 10
  • Romanian Deadlift: 3 x 10
  • Push-Up: 3 x 10
  • Single-Arm Row: 2 x 12 per side
  • Single-Arm Z-Press: 2 x 10
  • Plank: 3 x 30 seconds

Best Airport Workout For Long Flights

One of the most important aspects of a good airport workout is to mitigate the impact of being sedentary for extended periods of time. On long flights, its a good idea to get up out of your seat regularly and walk the aisle to prevent muscle stiffness or circulation issues, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.

The Workout

Workouts during layovers are an opportunity to prevent some of the discomfort that may arise from being crammed in an airplane seat for hours on end. Combining full-body movements with some dynamic stretching techniques is a great strategy to avoid feeling squashed from travel. Pause in the deepest point of your range of motion for added stimulation.

  • Thread-The-Needle: 2 x 10 per side
  • Windmill: 2 x 10 per side
  • Walking Lunge into Sprinter Pose: 2 x 10 per side
  • Paused Bodyweight Squat: 2 x 10
  • Paused Romanian Deadlift: 2 x 10

Best Airport Workout for Core

The core is another area of your body that doesn’t need much load or equipment to get a great workout with. Calisthenics and unilaterally-loaded core exercises are readily available in a hectic environment like the airport, let alone when planned out as a training session. 

The Workout

From plank variations to carries or unilateral holds, core training in the airport is a piece of cake. The awkward size or cumbersome shape of your luggage is also an unexpected asset when it comes to training your abs.

Benefits of Airport Workouts

Aside from making sure you’re checked in and ready to go on time, throwing down a quick workout at your gate can do more than ease the dullness of air travel. Airport workouts can provide valuable insight on mobility and stability, bring in some much-needed stress relief, and prevent boredom during long hauls.

Mobility and Stability Work

You should prioritize your mobility and stability when exercising in the airport. Not only does it help offset some of the stiffness that might accumulate by being stuck in the terminal or on the plane itself, most workouts within an airport rely on long ranges of motion and unilateral exercises in order to account for not having a barbell to work with

woman stretching hamstring at airport
Credit: Eduard Goricev / Shutterstock

Unless your particular airport happens to be equipped with a full gym, take advantage of the chance to challenge your mobility and stability with clever exercise selection.

Stress Relief

Coordinating the logistics of travel and airports can be a stressful experience — not to mention the flight itself. One of the most tried-and-true methods of burning off nervous energy is a killer workout. Since getting sweaty might not be your conventional pre-flight move, make sure to toss a quick change of clothes in your carry-on and burn off those jitters.

Alleviate Boredom

Movies, reading, and podcasts are great options for long layovers and filling pre-flight wait times, but they also are great ways to occupy the mind on the flight itself. Keep your screen on standby and take advantage of the ability to move around in the terminal to get your blood pumping before you sit. Save Netflix for the flight itself, when you have nothing else to do.

How to Warm Up for Airport Workouts

Warming up for airport workouts is often as easy (or difficult) as the trek to the terminal. Hauling your luggage, walking through the concourse, and prioritizing the stairs instead of the escalator can be a general warm-up in and of itself.

women doing yoga in airport
Credit: Pavel Shlykov / Shutterstock

Top it off with a quick dynamic warm-up specific to the workout you’re about to perform, and then dive in. If the journey to the terminal doesn’t seem like enough, a quick power walk around your gate, or jogging a few flights of steps should do the trick.

The Big Picture

Airport workouts might seem unconventional at first, but they can definitely supply some much-needed movement. Given the benefits to your training continuity, or more importantly, the flying experience itself, including an airport workout when possible makes complete sense. 

Whether pre-flight or during a long layover, airport workouts for holiday travel are the gift that keeps on giving. If you’re feeling a bit light on motivation, pack a good pre-workout — or grab a coffee from a nearby cafe — and get to work. 

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